I WROTE that Kyle Andrews’ last album, Find Love, Let Go “goes out sounding like the best college demo you’ve never heard.” Which is hyperbole, no doubt. But if Find Love, Let Go was the promising demo, Real Blasty is the breakthrough album. Every element of Andrews’ songwriting has matured: the skeleton electronics from the last album have come grown some flesh, the melodies have reached a new height of proverbial sing-along-ness, and the previously too-complacent guitar jangles have given way to almost-rock music. In short, Andrews is more likeable than ever.
Real Blasty isn’t perfect, but it’s hard not to be excited about music that comes this close to firing on all cylinders. Andrews takes the fundamentals of pop—hooks, choruses, sugary sweet piano melodies (think Hellogoodbye)—and dresses them in quirky formulas and an obsessive, precise attention to detail (think Spoon). And as far as details go, there’s not a misplaced bit of echo or distorted guitar on this album.
As an initially hesitant techno beat and twittering piano notes drive “Sushi,” Andrews piles the familiar trappings of indie pop—the handclaps, the wordless cooing and shouting, the synthesized bridge before one last triumphant outbreak of chorus—onto a track that renders him a cutesy, melodic foot-soldier of Moby the Great. This is the track that sonically reimagines the Microsoft-Paint-era Technicolor radio on the album’s cover, a perfect anthem for certain Brooklyn dance clubs. Speaking of which, “Naked in New York,” sounds less familiar: it opens with interplay between synthesizers, but quickly moves into newer territory—the drums kick in and an electric guitar wail takes over as Andrews sings “I can’t give you up/I’m not afraid of the dark/I’m not afraid of the dark.”
As a general rule, everything on Real Blasty is designed to be bigger and better than any of Andrew’s back catalog. We only get two ballads, the underwhelming “Cut and Paste” and the absurdly sentimental album closer “Bus” (lyrics: “Take my love/It’s all I am/It’s all I have to give/It’s all I have.”) The rest is all energetic pop, drenched in kicking drum beats, keyboards, and synthesizer and accented with just about anything else Kyle can pull out of his computer. “Blow it Out,” while clearly within the realms of a pop song, shows that Andrews could probably make a pretty decent dance album.
“I Wanted to Paint a Rainbow”—over five minutes long and perhaps the best song in the lineup—pulses with all the adrenaline of a pent up racehorse before finally finding release in a perfect two-minute piano outro that shows us Andrews depth and vocal range. “It didn’t take much to let us down/Just one touch pushed us underground/No it didn’t take much/Turn me inside out/Start a flood with my mouth/But I could never say enough/Oh no, what have I done?” Andrews sings, eulogizing all the stupid mistakes every guy has ever made.
All of this expansion of sound comes at a predictable price: unlike on his last EP, Andrews sounds more like your average, polished indie-pop artist, even if his voice is still a little rough for the mainstream. But as if to show he’s no sellout Real Blasty comes closer than ever to unleashing Andrews’ closeted rocker. “Wavering Between the Real and the Abstract”, for example, structurally follows Radiohead’s “Bodysnatchers,” down to the mid-song acoustic guitar riff and the meltdown ending. (It also features the album’s most Radiohead worthy lines: “But I feel indifferent/I guess that’s something/I’ll fade away.”)
Overall, it’s difficult to find much to criticize here. Real Blasty could have been whittled down to nine or ten songs and be a better album for it. But this is about as good as harmless, feel-good pop gets.
Timothy Zila is a Patrol music critic.
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